Review – HELL YEAH! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
To say that Arkedo’s latest creation bursts with color and creativity falls short of capturing the artistic madness of their work. Prince Ash’s quest to eviscerate the 101 monsters that have laid eyes upon his incriminating photographs offers a world, not quit as organic in the flow of life as last year’s Rayman Origins, but gushing with an attitude all its own and a degree of more comic minded artistry that ensnares the eyes just as easily.

In a sea of releases where minimalism offsets the truth that detailed art is extremely time consuming and expensive, Hell Yeah is a punch to the retina that also brings a much needed dose of unbridled batshit crazy design to the table – that feeling that no idea was too crazy in whatever subterranean development space allowed this game to be created.

With great madness comes great risk however, and the play mechanics of Hell Yeah favor a safer and more familiar road, which on the one hand limits the mileage, but on the other goes a long way toward offering a title that may convince some that the Sega Genesis is alive and well in the year of gaming that is 2012.


Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
The humor and creative freedom that accompanies this rabbit prince of hell immediately begs comparisons to the spirit of Earthworm Jim. Hell Yeah’s chaotic and persistent sense of humor is the focus, with the action moving players along a path of escalating insanity meant to illicit laughs versus really putting veteran skills to the test.

The style of play favors mild platforming across a series of sizeable environments within Hell, which Ash primarily traverses within a spinning wheel of death that also functions as a light jetpack – meaning that holding down the jump button will grab a brief bit of lift to reach higher areas. It also allows Ash to drill through obstacles to reach new sections, allowing the game to keep certain areas closed off for the sake of progression by having Ash’s spiky ride upgraded to drill through evolving substances as the game grinds on.

Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
While there are a few lesser critters to crunch along the way, the focus is on tracking down the 101 monsters and executing them in the most hilariously grotesque ways imaginable. Given the scale of this task, monsters tend to cluster in certain areas, with players encountering three or four in a short amount of time before having to search a bit harder for further victims.

Adding to the demands on Arkedo’s art department, each of these monsters presents a unique design to be awed over in the encyclopedia that keeps track of each defeated creature. Each also possesses a modest health bar that Ash will often chew away at by blasting the monsters with his large assortment of armaments or by grinding his ride against their bones. At the end of each health bar a mini-game is triggered, and players will have to manage some quick button prompts in order to ignite Ash’s over-the-top executions. Failing to do so will restore a bit of the monster’s health at the expense of the player’s, making for some tense moments when Ash’s blood gauge is close to empty.

Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
It’s easiest to think of these sequences as WarioWare-esk mini-games, where timing and the press of a button is key to accomplishing whatever silly task the game asks. This might involve moving a trampoline from side to side to keep corn cobs in the air, pressing multiple buttons at the same time to chew a piece of cheese, or dropping an object into a pot as it slides across the screen – these are only a scant few examples.

Each of these bizarre tasks is tied to an equally odd execution sequence, where Ash does everything from launch shark guided missiles at his enemies to summoning a Tyrannosaurus to rip them apart. There’s an immense spectacle to behold each time, and even as the game recycles some of these death sequences a few times to reach the end, there’s often a slight change – perhaps your T-Rex shows up wearing 3D glasses the next time around.

Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
Arkedo attempts to shake up the play with many tricks, offering sections of the game where Ash must proceed on foot and without weapons, and providing other modes of transportation for sections that take place in space and underwater. When the game really mines some gold is in areas where Ash must lure monsters to their doom rather than bring it to them – in one situation attracting insects toward dangers by pollinating himself.

Collecting jewels along the way offers cash to spend in the game’s store, where Ash’s health and weapons can be enhanced, with new weapons continually unlocked along with a variety of costume materials – new faces and hats to snub the tsars of fashion and all that. An additional mode called The Island can even be accessed, and here Ash can put defeated monsters to work in different areas to gain more in-game rewards. Be sure to pay attention to that mode early on, I left it until the end expecting a mini-game and was kicking myself for missing out on the bonus potential.

Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
The level design does a fair job of leading players toward targets, which will eventually require the use of portals to return to old areas to access new locations. The only real downside of swapping areas are some rather tedious load times, which Arkedo is well aware enough of to include jokes about them in the load screens along with elevator music – funny and all, but still tedious.

There’s a limit to how far the bloody humor and spectacle can get this ride, but at the same time enough of a void in the batshit crazy release catalogue that the experience remains fresh far longer than it should for the content. The relatively low difficulty curve aids this – it’s just easy to grind along despite the familiar pattern that emerges by the halfway point, and I was earnestly sad when the ride was over.

Review Hell Yeah Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
The fly in the ointment is that Hell Yeah is showing players more fun than its ludicrous deaths allow them to create for themselves. The mini-game murders never lack some measure of interaction, but Hell Yeah has far more to show players than it has to offer in the tactile pleasure department.

Whether intentionally or not, Hell Yeah does what few games aiming for nostalgia manage – which is to convince me that I am ten years old again. The simple control scheme, vibrant color palette offering numerous layers of painstaking detail, and even the moments where the 2D environment offers protection from boss encounters that make it feel like I’m cheating the system – all of this renewed me with a warm fuzzy sensation that first begins when the game loads and the classic Sega jingle echoes through the room.

Hell Yeah’s longevity suffers for not bringing a bit more game to the mix, but gains some forgiveness for the fact that we could use more games of its ilk – ones willing to pull the stick out of their butt and hand it over to players in order to whack a few rainbow vomiting unicorn piñatas just for kicks.


Developer
Arkedo

Publisher
Sega

System
PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade), Windows PC (PlayStation Network Reviewed)

Modes
Singleplayer

Release Date
September 26, 2012

Price
$14.99, 1200 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • http://photovoltaik.bandcamp.com/ Ujn Hunter

    I love Arkedo. I own all their games (that I know of, both DS games and all three on XBLIG) so I look forward to this game going on sale. I’m still not a fan of 2D HD games though… I prefer their stylized pixel work on their XBLIG releases (well, two of the three anyhow) over the clean lined HD art that looks like stickers pasted on top of background art.